Gijs Donker born 28th of March 1964 in Amsterdam. Raised in Denmark (Copenhagen) and Leiden (City of Rembrandt). Gijs Donker is the son of Willem Donker who took over Donker Publishing from his father Ad Donker. Donker Publishing is among others the publisher for the Dutch market of the well-known book “Le petit prince” of Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Gijs Donker was fanatically making drawings on a daily basis from the age of 3 years. At primary school he was asked many times to make drawings for the school newspaper. In 1983 Gijs Donker entered “de Rijksuniversiteit Leiden” to study Psychology. After 2 years Gijs his true artistic nature kept on telling him to change his path and he decided to go to South Africa to join his younger brother Aad Donker who was working there at the publishing company of their uncle. Upon Gijs his arrival Aad told him he was not happy there and both decided to travel to the “homelands” of South Africa to make live drawings of the local indigenous people. After this they both went to visit Namibie to also draw the “Ovahimba” people, a nomadic people related to the Maasai (1987-1988).
This trip to Africa was the foundation for the artistic career of the brothers Donker and they both got accepted to join the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague. At the Academy their talent was soon discovered by professional “Avant Garde” painters in Amsterdam which resulted in an invitation for an exhibition at the Daniel Newburg Gallery (Daniel Newburg is direct descendant of the Vanderbilt family). This exhibition was a great success and was visited by the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, Amy Stone (daughter of Norman C. Stone, psychotherapist, philanthropist, vintner and major American collector of modern and contemporary art)
The latter (Amy Stone) starts a relationship with Aad Donker and Aad decides to stay in New York. The following four years (1991-1995) Gijs Donker travels up and down to New York for exhibitions, commissions and art fairs. Through the Stone family the Donker brothers got access to the art elite of the USA. The jet set life they lived also resulted in a friendship with Sandro Chia and they spent time together in Italy; Toscane (in the castle of Sandro Chia), South Beach and New York. One example of the most bizar events that happened at that time is that during a very icy and snow covered New York, Sandro Chia wanted to join Gijs and Aad so badly to a very happening party that Sandro bought a four wheel drive in order to be able to get to the party, as this was the only means of transport that would get them there.
In this period the brothers Donker (Gijs, Aad and Just ) did an exhibition at the Andrea Rosen Gallery in New York. Sandro Chia also promoted the brothers Donker to Leo Castelli (Art Gallery of amongst others Andy Warhol and Sandro Chia). Unfortunately Leo Castelli got ill half a year later in 1995 and in the same year Aad Donker broke up with Amy Stone and went to stay in the jungle of Suriname where he painted the indigenous tribes to try to overcome the break-up. The turmoil did not end there because the relationship between the brothers deteriorated. As a result they were not able to attend exhibitions, commissions and art fairs anymore. Eventually Aad returned to Leiden after his stay in the jungle of Surinam and he had produced an incredible high quality series of paintings. The latter inspired Gijs Donker to undertake another trip with Aad to Venezuela to paint indigenous tribes like the “Yanomami”. In 1998 Aad Donker committed suicide because he had not been able to overcome the break-up with Amy Stone. After this shocking event Gijs Donker mentally journeyed back to the beginning days of painting in Africa and produced among others an exquisit series of exotic, African, indigenous woman and (African) landscapes.
The immense passion for Africa and it’s raw pure beauty was equaled by Gijs Donker his close friend Maurits Falkenreck. A Business Architect and innovative entrepreneur who amongst others launched and implemented a transaction platform aiming to empower diaspora and create a local African eco system that should result in a growing middle class resulting eventually in a much lower birth rate and as a consequence harmony between human beings and wildlife in order to preserve the last foothold of pure nature and wildlife being Africa. Maurits Falkenreck discovered the true nature of aid organisations who cultivate social problems thus to create legitimacy for its own existence. Many long nights where the Barolo wine flowed freely Gijs and Maurits shared their love for Africa in the company of his wife Lucy Chodota. The Latter spent a lot of time with Peter Beard in Kenya at the Hog Ranch. At the time she was running her modeling agency and film production house. She also spent time with the likes of Iman, Richard Harris and John Michie. Together with her husband Maurits she visited Kenya and the The Hog Ranch many times. Lucy and Maurits have a daughter called Nuru Falkenreck.
Gijs and Maurits have ever since shared their ideology and creative views and join forces creating awareness for the disruption of indigenous life and wildlife. Gijs Donker in the role of artist/painter and Maurits as advisor and agent.
These days Gijs Donker and the “Avant Garde” legacy he and Aad and Just left behind has not gone unnoticed and leading film producers are now working on an international film production on their lives and work.